Cal OES-Led Mission in Gold-Rush Era Town Nears Completion
SACRAMENTO – Less than a year after the record-breaking Dixie Fire engulfed the Northern California whistle-stop of Greenville, members of this tight-knit community are finally seeing a light at the end of a very dark tunnel as recovery work in this historic mountain town inches closer to completion.
In the evening of August 4, 2021, the Dixie Fire destroyed the rural settlement of Greenville in about 30 minutes, wiping away more than a century of history and displacing hundreds of residents.
Once flames were extinguished, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) went to work planning and executing an unprecedented wildfire recovery mission, not only removing wildfire debris from residential and commercial properties, but also assisting local partners in regaining services that were lost during the historic blaze.
“From removing fire debris, helping strengthen their first responder capacity to getting local children back in the classroom, we are proud of the work done to provide Greenville community members the resources they need to get back home,” said Cal OES Director Mark Ghilarducci.
Looking at downtown Greenville today, the area is vastly different from when recovery work began. Dunes of debris left behind by the Dixie Fire have been leveled, the deafening parade of hauling trucks piled high with charred remains has given way to the hum of day-to-day traffic, and the frames of future businesses are starting to pop up along the downtown streets.
This Plumas County town, with its sweeping mountain vistas, community spirit and soundtrack of passing trains, now seems reinvigorated and focused on the future.
Learn more about the comprehensive recovery mission carried out by Cal OES:
2021 Wildfire Debris Removal in Greenville
Cal OES hit the ground running to help residents recover after this devastating fire and encouraged homeowners to enroll in the no-cost state program to remove fire remnants. Working with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery and the Department of Toxic Substance Control, the state removed household hazardous waste and conducted fire-related debris removal from properties.
Known as the State’s Consolidated Debris Removal Program, state crews have cleared debris from virtually all properties in Greenville.
“It’s rare that we see a loss of an entire community like we have in Greenville,” said Cole Glenwright, Operations Section Chief, Cal OES Recovery. “This town lost all of its critical infrastructure, including the post office, medical center, gas station and hotel. It’s truly a massive effort the state undertook to help this community get back on track.”
As of May 31, 2022, crews have removed burned metal, concrete, and ash from 390 properties. The 390 cleared properties represent 98 percent of the 398 properties in Greenville participating in the full debris removal program. Post-debris removal steps, including hazard tree removal, also continue across the community. Of the 269 parcels containing hazard trees, crews have successfully removed dangerous and deadly trees from 236 parcels or 88 percent.
The Cal OES-led debris removal operation in Greenville is one of the fastest operations to date. Crews removed nearly 104,396 tons of debris, which accounted for 8,873 truck trips between Greenville and the disposal/recycling facility.
Property owners can continue to track progress on the Debris Operations Dashboard for the 2021 statewide wildfires. The dashboard is updated every hour and provides users with the ability to search by county or address.
Learn more here.
Cal OES Supports Fire Department in Greenville
Cal OES deployed a mutual aid fire engine to the Indian Valley Fire and Rescue Department, which serves Greenville, following the complete loss of its building and equipment due to the Dixie Fire.
The Cal OES Type 1 fire engine provides Greenville’s Indian Valley Fire Department with a fully equipped engine to continue their efforts in fighting fires and keeping their community safe. The Indian Valley Fire Department consists of a fire hall in Greenville, Taylorsville, North Arm, and Genesee.
In addition, Cal OES helped secure a temporary fire station for the Indian Valley Fire and Rescue Department, which holds four engines and can ensure the town has local emergency services when needed.
“If Cal OES wasn’t there, I don’t know what we would’ve done,” said Chief Bob Orange, Indian Valley Fire Department. “They not only loaned us a fire engine superior to anything we had in our fleet, they also paid for the new station site to be flattened out and put in an office for us to work out of.”
This partnership is made possible by the California Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, which provides local government fire agencies with fire apparatus to maintain surge capacity during day-to-day duties and major events/emergencies. Learn more here.
Watch a video on the project here.
Listen to the All Hazards Podcast with Indian Valley Fire Department Chief Bob Orange here.
Cal OES Provides Substation for Plumas County Sheriff’s Department
Cal OES also provided a temporary substation for the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department, which is collocated with the fire station. This dual-purpose facility has been instrumental in ensuring consistent public safety service in Greenville.
“The efforts put forward by the Cal OES staff have been nothing short of phenomenal,” said Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns. “The continued support they have offered the county and, more importantly, the communities that have suffered during this tragic event could not be more appreciated.”
Looking to the future, the plan is to make the temporary site currently being used by the Indian Valley Fire Department and the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department the new permanent base for both.
Plumas Charter School Reopening
After Plumas Charter School lost its Greenville campus in the Dixie Fire, Cal OES teamed up with the California Department of Education, the California Department of General Services, Plumas County, and other local partners to secure portable classrooms so students could return to in-person instruction at a new school in Taylorsville.
“It was very traumatic for everyone, trying to reassimilate and ground after that kind of crisis,” said Taletha Washburn, Director, Plumas Charter School. “But Cal OES came in and kind of saved the day. It was a profound experience for our staff, and me in particular, to feel that support.”
The new facility in Taylorsville hosts three classrooms, two bathrooms and an office space, comparable to the previous school in Greenville.
“Most people see the outside of the building, but there’s a whole city underneath the building — the sewer, the water, the well, and the electrical hookup,” said Andre Essue, Site Director, Plumas Charter School. “By Cal OES taking care of that infrastructure, we got to focus on programming, curriculum and social emotional learning to give our students a sense of normalcy.”
Learn more here.
Greenville Temporary Housing
Following the Dixie Fire, Cal OES purchased a total of 14 travel trailers to serve as temporary housing for displaced Greenville families. After over four months of providing temporary housing for a total of 17 Greenville households, Cal OES transferred ownership and operation of the travel trailers to Plumas County on March 31, 2022.
Learn more here.